Land Stewardship Science & Education
Stewardship of The High Lonesome Ranch represents a contemporary application of Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic: humans are members of the land community – working landscapes — and have an obligation to keep that community as healthy, resilient, diverse and productive as possible while carrying out their uses and activities in sustainable and profitable ways. To further this aim at HLR, teams of scientists are conducting baseline ecological assessments and research on plant and animal life.
This work started in 2008 with biological and hydrological surveys in Kimball and North Dry Fork Creeks, concluded in 2011. In 2009 a 10-year research project was added to better understand the influence of predation on wild ungulates (mule deer and elk) and subsequent effects of their herbivory on aspen. Also that year, HLR hosted a meeting of the Society for Ecological Restoration. In 2011, two additional projects were added, one to measure cougar predation and the fate of prey killed using radio collars and remote cameras (field work concluded in 2012), and another to establish ecological and hydrologic baselines prior to planned stream and terrestrial ecosystem restoration of Kimball Creek Valley. The aspen and Kimball Valley baseline projects are still underway.
In 2012, HLR hosted a major symposium on aspen, proceedings of which will soon be published in Forest Ecology and Management, and we initiated surveys for Greater Sage Grouse in preparation for a planned Candidate Species Conservation Agreement with Assurances and subsequent habitat and population restoration. We also piloted a field school with Trinity University for undergraduates in 2012.
In 2011-2012, High Lonesome began development of what will become its Land Ethic Education Program. All education, survey and research work at HLR has been and is closely coordinated with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the USDI Bureau of Land Management and we will eventually reach out to other state and federal agencies as appropriate.
In late 2012, the High Lonesome Institute was incorporated as a not-for-profit entity to direct and plan all future research, education, and outreach activities associated with The High Lonesome Ranch. Collectively, work done through the High Lonesome Institute at The High Lonesome Ranch demonstrates how the combined efforts of public, private, corporate, academic, and scientific sectors can work cooperatively towards a common goal.
Since Leopold’s Land Ethic places people inside the ecosystem as opposed to separate from it, the cultural heritage at HLR is as important to us as is the biological heritage. The area was inhabited for thousands of years by indigenous people, its valley bottoms and high mesas likely holding seasonal camps. More recently homesteaders began inhabiting the land. Tour around The High Lonesome Ranch and you will see remnants of their cabins and buildings. 18 homesteader families left their mark on the North Dry Fork Valley alone, and significant efforts are being made to collect information that charts out the history of these original settlers. Visit the recently restored one-room Schoolhouse – the High Lonesome Heritage Center — or the McKay Fork Cow Camp and you will see what we’re talking about. The ranch is creating a small museum that pays homage to our cultural and biological heritage as well as our current stewardship efforts.
Guests have opportunities to learn about our science and, we hope, some day to be able to participate in certain research activities. To enrich your experience of this working, wild Western landscape, all guest accommodations are superbly stocked with a natural history library that contains classics such as A Sand County Almanac and newer volumes, such as one of our research project principal investigator’s recent natural history and ecology book, The Wolf’s Tooth, along with essential field guides to birds, plants, and wildlife. Plant and bird species lists are available at Ranch Headquarters for those who wish to go on naturalist forays, and a self-guided interpretive nature trail accessible to persons of all ages and physical abilities is planned to enable guests to learn first-hand about the ranch’s flora and fauna.
Check the other links on this site to learn more in detail about work completed and work underway at HLR through the High Lonesome Institute.